Did Flag Designs Inspire the Creation of the United States?

by John M. Hartvigsen

We celebrate the Fourth of July as Independence Day to remember 13 British American Colonies, which united giving birth to the United States of America in 1776.  What inspired the colonies to unite?

Fifty stars in the upper corner of the U.S. flag form the union, because they symbolize the number of states that currently make up the nation.  However, that is not the only union device making up Old Glory.  Elementary school students know that the thirteen red and white stripes symbolize thirteen colonies that declared their independence in July of 1776, and while that is true there is more to the story.

Red and white stripes formed a flag symbolizing union


Delaware Militia carried this flag with the 13 stripe union in the upper corner.

During the American Revolution, the thirteen red and white stripes symbolized the union of thirteen British American Colonies which came together to create the United States of America.  So, the star and the stripes are actually two separate symbols of union.

When the Continental Congress met at the beginning of hostilities that grew into revolution, the concept of union was well known to its members who gathered in Philadelphia.  Where did that idea of a Union come from?  It came from the colonies’ Mother Country, Great Britain.

We usually think that England was the Mother Country of the American Colonies; however, Great Britain was actually the union of England and Scotland.  There’s that word union again, and the Union Jack symbolized England and Scotland joined together or united under the rule of one Parliament and one King, the union of two separate kingdoms.

King James I had his heralds created the Union Jack by combining flag of England (St, George’s Cross) with the flag of Scotland (St. Andrew’s Cross) to symbolize his two kingdoms over which he reigned.  Two kingdoms with only one king.  In time the British Parliament created a union of these two kingdoms, and the Union Jack continued to be flown in both countries to symbolize this union.

The British Red Ensign displayed the Union Jack in its upper corner

British American Colonists flew the Union Jack and the Red Ensign, which had the Union Jack in the upper corner of the flag.  The Union Jack flag in design and name reminded the colonists of the union concept.  This likely was an inspiration that they, like the Mother Country could unite.

Stripes added to the Red Ensign formed the Continental Flag


The plain field of the Red Ensign was transformed into the Union of the 13 red and white stripes as the Colonial Union flag, which we now call the Grand Union flag.  With the Declaration of Independence, the Union Jack gave way to the Union of thirteen white stars symbolizing a “new constellation” raising to take its place among the empires and nations of the world just as a constellation rises in the nighttime sky to take its places amid the stars of the firmament.

Critically important to the founders of the United States of America, achieving Union won the Revolution and crated the Nation.  The unions depicted on Old Glory: a Union of 50 stars and a union of 13 red and white stripes.  E pluribus unum the Latin motto on the Great Seal of the United States translates “out of many, one.” 

E pluribus unum written on the scroll tells us that we are united


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